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Horror and forgiveness: Bataan death march survivor speaks out

By Kay S. Pedrotti About 100 people from several counties sat spellbound Dec. 8 as Col. Glenn Frazier, who survived the Bataan Death March and more than three years as a POW in Japan, unraveled his moving account of horror, deprivation, injuries, abuse, homecoming ‘“ and finally, forgiveness. Frazier spoke in the Lee Auditorium in Thomaston and was sponsored by the VFW and Thomaston-Upson Arts Council. A country boy from Fort Deposit, Ala., Frazier ran away from ‘a little trouble’ ‘“ wrecking a honky-tonk by riding through it on his motorcycle ‘“ lied about his age and buffaloed his way into the Army in the spring of 1941. At 16, his father already had said he couldn’t join up so the family did not know for many months where Glenn had ended up. He did write to them later. ’When they gave me a choice of Alaska, Panama or the Philippines, I chose the Philippines for some reason,’ he said. ‘The day after Pearl Harbor, the islands were bombed. I was with an ordnance group that was attached to the Philippine army and we were suddenly paralyzed. In that attack, 98% of all our P-40s, B-17s and other aircraft were destroyed on the ground at Clark Field, Nichols Field, Cavite Naval Base and Corregidor, killing about 6,000 U.S. troops the first day. McArthur (Gen. Douglas McArthur, Philippine Islands commander) said the figure was 2,500. He at that time could control everything released to the media.’ After some fierce ground fighting with more high numbers of American casualties, the troops began to ‘run out of everything,’ because neither ammo, reinforcements nor food could get through to them, said Frazier. Conditions were so horrible the troops were ‘drinking from streams with dead bodies in them,’ eating lizards and constructing makeshift weapons. The Japanese commanding general sent word to the U.S. headquarters that there must be a surrender in two days, Frazier said, ‘or every living soul in Bataan, some 65,000 to 70,000 people, would be killed,’ Frazier said. ’That guy said ‘˜remember Nanking,’ because he commanded at that invasion of China, when more than 300,000 Chinese were massacred.’ On April 9, 1942, the Americans surrendered, ‘not wishing to bring down that kind of killing,’ said Frazier. The ordeal began for some 15,000 Americans who were marched across the Bataan peninsula to prisoner of war camps and to Japan as slave laborers. Frazier was one of the latter. He described the march as his worst life experience ‘“ no sustaining food (unless worms and rice count), no good water, no mercy for those who couldn’t keep up, no sleep, constant physical abuse. The abuse was especially true for Frazier and his buddy Gerald Block, who managed to escape several times but were recaptured. Three thousand died walking. Another 2,500 died on the rail cars to the harbor to be loaded on ships for Japan. Of the 306 Americans Frazier knew about in Japan, 25 were alive at the end of the war. He had been separated from Block and did not know until years later that Block died aboard a Japanese vessel. ’During the war, it was my hatred of the Japanese that helped me survive and keep going no matter what. After I got home hatred began to turn on me. I couldn’t forgive or forget,’ he said. ‘I had nightmares and serious episodes when I sought psychiatric treatment ‘“ something guys didn’t do back then. It got so bad that when my wife wanted to buy a Toyota I asked where did she think she was going to park it.’ Then came a church mission event with young students from all over the world, he said. A Japanese girl found out who he was and what he had been through and asked to do something for him. ’I was skeptical. But she got a pan of water, knelt down and took my shoes and socks off, and washed my feet. She was crying and praying, apologizing to me and repenting for her whole nation. I was crying and praying, and so was everybody else. That ended the hatred that had tormented me for so many years,’ said Frazier. Frazier earned the colonel’s rank in the active reserves and served also in the Alabama State Defense Force. His medals and commendations include three Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star and Medal of Freedom. He tracked down Block’s family, and with the help of Congressional friends, documented Block’s heroism and was able to present all the same medals to Block’s family. ’It’s so much better. I’ve let my wife buy a Suzuki,’ Frazier said.

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